Diabetes, cancer and the like: a healthy lifestyle protects years from chronic diseases

Diabetes, cancer and the like: a healthy lifestyle protects years from chronic diseases

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Study confirms link between lifestyle and chronic diseases

Average life expectancy has increased significantly in recent decades. The increasing aging of the population has led to an increase in the number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. According to a study, a healthy lifestyle could protect against such diseases for years.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that influenceable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, body weight and nutrition influence both the overall life expectancy and the occurrence of chronic diseases. According to a study, those who live healthy in middle age stay fit and free of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for up to ten years longer.

Increasing age leads to more chronic diseases

Although people live longer these days, older people often have disabilities and chronic illnesses, according to a recent publication in the specialist magazine "The BMJ".

"People with chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have a shorter life expectancy than their peers without these diseases," the authors write.

Estimates assume that 7.5 to 20 years of life will be lost due to these chronic diseases.

However, a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, USA, concludes that middle-aged people who follow a healthy lifestyle appear to remain fit and free from chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease for up to ten years, reports the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE).

The scientific work was published in the journal "Circulation".

Five important factors

The American scientists counted five factors for a "healthy" lifestyle:

  • a balanced diet
  • a healthy body weight
  • enough exercise
  • moderate alcohol consumption
  • refraining from smoking

According to the information, more than 100,000 women and men were accompanied for around three decades for the investigation. In the questionnaires, the test subjects provided information about their eating and living habits, among other things.

The researchers calculated the body mass index (BMI) as the ratio of weight (in kg) to body size (in m to square). With a normal body weight this is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg / m2.

Nutrition was assessed using the so-called "Alternate Healthy Eating Index" (AHEI). The participants moved regularly if they were moderately to vigorously active for at least 30 minutes a day.

By definition, moderate alcohol consumption was one daily serving (5-15 g) for women and two servings (5-30 g) for men. By way of illustration: a quarter liter of wine contains about 20 g of alcohol.

Women benefited particularly

The study results showed that women who followed four or five of their healthy habits at age 50 lived free of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer on average for ten years longer (34.4 years instead of 23.7 years ).

Women who did not meet any of the factors of a healthy lifestyle served as a comparison group.

Men were able to gain 7.6 disease-free years through a healthy middle-aged lifestyle (31.1 years instead of 23.5 years).

The more of these five healthy lifestyle factors were met, the higher the overall life expectancy in the study. In addition, the chances of survival after the diagnosis of chronic diseases also improved.

However, the scientists at the BMJ point out that other chronic diseases such as kidney and respiratory problems have not been considered. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Yanping Li, Josje Schoufour, Dong D Wang, Klodian Dhana, An Pan, Xiaoran Liu, Mingyang Song, Gang Liu, Hyun Joon Shin, Qi Sun, Laila Al-Shaar, Molin Wang, Eric B Rimm, Ellen Hertzmark, Meir J Stampfer , Walter C Willett, Oscar H Franco, Frank B Hu: Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study; in: The BMJ, (published: 08.01.2020), The BMJ
  • Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE): Lifestyle and chronic diseases: study confirms connection, (accessed: 26.02.2020), Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE)
  • Yanping Li, An Pan, Dong D. Wang, Xiaoran Liu, Klodian Dhana, Oscar H. Franco, Stephen Kaptoge, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, Meir Stampfer, Walter C. Willett and Frank B. Hu: Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US population; in: Circulation, (published: April 30, 2018), Circulation

Video: Preventing, reversing diseases with a healthy lifestyle (October 2022).